Pet Identity Crisis
Make sure your pets have proper ID at all times because you never know when they’ll need it most.
By Lisa King
Having a dog or cat go missing is a very traumatic event. Not knowing whether they’ve been hit by a car, been pet-napped or have simply wandered off is nerve-wracking. Providing your pet with effective identification is the best way to ensure that if the worst happens, you can be reunited with your lost pet.
Some dogs are real escape artists and will take advantage of a loose board in a fence or an open gate; some have been known to dig under fences to get free. If the escape happens while you are at work, you might not find out for hours, giving your dog plenty of time to wander quite a distance.
Even if you have indoor-only cats, a door left ajar can mean a missing cat. Two of my cats once pushed a loose screen out of a window and went on a walkabout for several minutes before someone noticed. Fortunately, we were able to round them up quickly.
If someone finds your pet and brings him to a shelter, the staff will make every effort to find you. If your pet has no ID and you don’t turn up looking for him, he is at risk of being euthanized. But this tragic outcome is easy to prevent.
A simple metal tag bearing your pet’s name and your phone number attached to his collar can make all the difference. These can be custom made at most pet supply stores or ordered online. Someone who finds your wandering pet needs only call your number to let you know where your dog or cat is.
Another option is a specially designed flash drive. These are available in shock-proof, waterproof cases that attach to your pet’s collar. You program your contact information onto the drive so whoever finds your dog can plug the drive into his computer and contact you. These devices can also include medical information if your pet has a serious condition.
Since collars can come off—especially cat collars, which should always be breakaway collars—all your pets should be micro-chipped. If your pet is ever stolen, the thieves can remove tags, but cannot remove the microchip.
Some countries require that all pets be microchipped. Most U.S. shelters routinely microchip their cats and dogs, but if not, you can pay your veterinarian a one-time fee of about $50. She will inject the tiny chip (about the size of a grain of rice) with a syringe, usually just under the skin between the shoulder blades.
This procedure is no more painful than a vaccination would be for you. The chip remains inactive until it is scanned. You must then put your contact information into a pet database. If your pet is picked up and brought to a shelter, he will be scanned to see if he is microchipped. If so, shelter staff will contact you through the database. Always keep your contact information up to date. The chip will remain usable for the life of your pet.
Since there are a few different types of chips, shelter staff might have to check several registries before they find your pet. You can simplify the job by putting a tag on your pet’s collar that names the type of microchip he is carrying. Newer scanners can read all types of chips, but older ones can miss certain chips.
Microchipping may sound pricey, but it can save you the trouble and expense of searching the neighborhood, posting fliers, and paying rewards, not to mention the anxiety and heartache of losing a family member.
About the Author: Lisa King is a freelance writer living in Southern California. She is the former managing editor of Pet Product News International, Dogs USA, and Natural Dog magazines. Lisa is also the author of the well-received murder mystery novel “Death in a Wine Dark Sea” and the recently released “Vulture au Vin.”